Social Changes the Rules of Customer Service

    Social media is changing the customer experience — and is reshaping how customer service is delivered. Traditionally, companies had a limited number of ways to communicate with their customers, including face-to-face interactions, phone calls, click-to-call from the website and email. But social media is opening up that conversation in new and exciting ways.

    Social media allows companies to reach more customers, prospective customers and opinion leaders than ever. They can create lively communities among their fans and draw in the knowledge of experts and influencers. Social media enables companies to keep their fingers on the pulses of customer and public opinion far more easily, and they no longer have to wait until customers complain to take action. When customer service happens in real time and in the open, companies have an opportunity to resolve issues in a way that shows that the company cares about customers’ concerns and public opinion. 

    But social customer service can feel a little like living in a glass house. Customers can air their negative feedback just as easily as sharing rave reviews across their social channels. If the customer is famous, word can spread like wildfire. Just ask Patrick Stewart about cable providers or Alec Baldwin about airlines.

    Social customer service ups the ante on the customer service and support organization. The contact center has many more channels to monitor than just phone and web, and agents need to be trained in these different channels. And the customer service interaction lives out loud.

    We’re at the dawn of the social customer service era, and companies are just learning how to respond to requests and comments from social media. Even some of the biggest brands that are active on Twitter are still finding their way in responding to tweeted customer service requests. A recent study published in the Real Time Report showed that top brands responded to only 14 percent of tweets that were sent directly to the company over four weeks.

    Today, customers are more knowledgeable than ever. They have the tools to be better prepared for a purchase, with easy access to product information as well as customer reviews on the Internet and the opinions of their friends — and friends of friends — in social media circles. The balance of power is shifting toward the customer, and now more than ever, people choose and maintain relationships with brands on their own terms. As people decide if, when and where to engage with the brands of their choice, it is the companies that can monitor and react to customers’ circles of social influence that will be the winners.

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